A lot of Veterans have been told their records were destroyed in a fire in St. Louis in 1973. However, they do not know exactly what happened or exactly what was destroyed. The fire in question occurred at The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which housed Official Military Personnel Files.
National Personnel Records Center was built in 1956 at 9700 Page Boulevard St. Louis, Missouri, and was the largest in St. Louis–almost two blocks long and a block wide. On July 12, 1973, shortly after midnight, a fire was reported. It took firefighters only 4 minutes to arrive after the first alarm sounded and the entire sixth floor was already raging out of control. Although firefighters were able to contain it to just that area, it took 50 hours to put out the fire. There are a few different speculations, but the exact cause of the fire has never been determined.
The entire sixth floor was destroyed in the fire along with 16-18 million official Military Personnel Files. An estimated 80% of Army records of personnel discharged between November 1, 1912 to January 1, 1960, and 75% of Air Force records of personnel discharged September 25, 1947 to January 1, 1964 (with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.) were destroyed.
As part of the reconstruction effort, the NPRC established a "B" registry file (or Burned File) to index the 6.5 million recovered records. Also, the NPRC established a separate temperature controlled "B" file area to protect and safeguard the damaged records. Later, in April 1974, the NPRC established the "R" registry file (or Reconstructed File) to further assist with reconstruction efforts. Since then, staffers have placed all newly reconstructed records into the "R" registry file and stored them in an area separate from the "B," or burned files.
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